Oh my sweet friends, thank you again so much for your prayers, emails, messages, and well wishes. Never have we ever felt so surrounded by love and support. It’s rare that I’m unable to throw in my two cents, but I’ve sat and stared at a blank computer screen nearly all week and all I can come up with is, OH LOOK! SCRABBLE.
That’s why Fiddledaddy needed to step in and fill the void.
I’d love to go into a bit more detail about the weekend, but a bit is all I can manage, because WHAT HO, it seems that some members of my tribe (as in the sisters) are even more inappropriate than I am in times of duress.
Who knew that was possible.
Most of the siblings, in-laws, and older grandchildren kept vigil at Natalie’s bedside throughout the weekend. We knew her time was close at hand, but you can really never tell. When I took my mom home with hospice care, we were given 3 days. My mom had other ideas and hung on for 3 weeks, choosing to pass peacefully on St. Patricks Day. As she was Irish.
I brought the kids over to their grandparent’s house on Sunday afternoon. Fiddledaddy had gotten there early in the morning. When we arrived, the 3 brothers and 3 sisters were there, along with spouses and the older granddaughters.
I walked through the kitchen and saw quite a bit of wonderful food (and libations) brought over by sweet friends and neighbors. I was greeted by a brother-in-law who announced that he evidently was a stress eater, and had already consumed 9000 calories. As an aside he warned us that he was hereto going to dispense with pants and simply wear a towel.
That’s when I left the kitchen and went to seek out the sisters.
The women in the family were all gathered around Natalie’s hospital bed in her bedroom. I stepped one foot in the door, and had to turn around and head into another direction to compose myself. My BIL made me a cocktail that involved rum. And I commenced with the eating.
It turns out that some of us are stress eaters. And some are stress drinkers. And some are both.
I don’t need to tell you in which category I belong…
I can share for certain which one my son should be included, as he proudly shared at some point during the day, “I ATE 11 PIECES OF RED VELVET CAKE!”
I went back to Natalie’s bedside, where I spent the next few hours surrounded by my sisters-in-law and nieces. This is the tribe of women that I’ve spoken of often. From the minute I entered into this family, I’ve been embraced. They are my people. We all sat together and loved on and stroked Natalie, telling her how much we love her. We cried until our eyes were swollen, and laughed until our sides hurt. At one point a sister suggested that we get Eileen, the first daughter-in-law and still devout Catholic, to say the rosary that Nana was holding. We told my FIL and he joined us at Nana’s head. If you’re Catholic, or a lapsed Catholic, or a former Catholic, saying the rosary comes back to you like riding a bike after many many years.
Okay. Bike may not be the best analogy, because it was my mother-in-law’s bike that I climbed aboard a number of years ago and promptly took out a neighbor’s mailbox.
Anyhoo. The rosary is a long affair. My eyes were closed, but I could tell that the men folk of the family had also entered the room. After a bit, I felt the room change even more. I opened my eyes and noticed that Natalie had slipped from this world into the arms of Jesus. As though she had planned it that way. With all her loved ones present. During the rosary.
I don’t know how Eileen did it, but she kept going. And we tearfully continued with each rosary bead until it was finished. I remember thinking that I never wanted the moment to end. There was so much love and so much peace in that room.
After giving my precious father-in-law time with his beloved wife alone, the women eventually gathered around her bedside once more. We sat for a couple of more hours, comforting one another, stroking her hair, and telling stories. It was one of the most healing moments we could have had. My own daughters were a part of this, and this was their first real experience with death at an age where they could understand what was happening. They handled the whole thing with so much maturity and grace. I was so proud of them. I think that because they’ve been a part of the whole process, from caring for her at the hospital, to being at home with her with hospice care, and also being a part of this very close knit family that have come together like nothing I’ve ever witnessed, it wasn’t so scary for them.
They also rest in the knowledge that this is not the end for their grandmother. This is a woman who loved Jesus with all of her heart. There is no doubt where she is now, and that we will see her again.
Eventually the funeral home arrived to take care of all that needed taking care of. We remained until late into the night, all clinging to one another.
Our week has been spent taking care of our Pop Pop, and making sure that he is not alone and has everything he needs. As a salty native New Yorker, and fiercely independent, I think he wishes we would all back off a little. But he’s letting us love on him. As it should be.
Natalie’s service is planned for January 23rd, which coincidentally would be their 59th wedding anniversary.
As difficult as the beginning of this year has been, I’ve never been so keenly aware of how blessed I am to be surrounded by this family and these friends. A New Years Revelation that beats all the resolutions in the world, to be sure.
Have a blessed weekend, my friends. And hold your loved ones extra close.